Membrane Alan Cohen Poetry

by Alan Cohen

Published in Issue No. 285 ~ February, 2021

It is the same and not the same

Taking brush and cleanser to clean the toilet

Or pen and paper to write

We are pragmatically active in both

But there is no membrane between us and porcelain

Like the one between us and words

(Easily written, probably true)

Sometimes I cannot find them, words

Even when I know exactly what I am looking for

I can’t stand reliably on a sentence as I can on a floor


The membrane may well be the message

All words are virtual

So in a way, none of them exist

Though, in another, they are all right there in the dictionary and thesaurus

Just as the toilet is in the bathroom

In a pinch, we do know where to find and arrest them

When they don’t just come across the membrane peaceably


But even more than elusive words, I must thank my aleatory mind

For placing a membrane between me and this world

Making it an acceptable place to live

Lending it substance, sensation, color, and interest, attraction

So that when I stand in the shower

I am secure in a waterfall, an embrace


And forget plumbing

That I am standing on a 126 tile grouted floor

Next to a 56 tile wall, sheetrock, framing, plywood, shingles

Naked under a faucet a few feet from the road

Where drivers or dog walkers could easily shoot me

Dependent on electricity and natural gas and grocery stores

Just a bunch of chemicals really

My electrons moving faster or slower, my compounds reacting


account_box More About

Alan Cohen’s first publication as a poet was in the PTA Newsletter when he was 10 years old. He graduated Farmingdale High School (where he was Poetry Editor of the magazine, The Bard), Vassar College (with a BA in English) and University of California at Davis Medical School, did his internship in Boston and his residency in Hawaii, and was then a Primary Care physician, teacher, and Chief of Primary Care at the VA, first in Fresno, CA and later in Roseburg, OR. He was nominated for his performance in Fresno for the 2012 VA Mark Wolcott Award for Excellence in Clinical Care Leadership. He has gone on writing poems for 60 years and, now retired from medicine, is beginning to share some of his discoveries. He has had a poem (“Autopsy”) and a medical letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine and, more recently, an article called “Annals of Communication: Giving a Patient a Diagnosis and Other Idioms In Development” in the American Journal of Medicine; and has had poems published in: Our Twentieth Century’s Greatest Poems, The Beast in a Cage of Words, “The New England Journal of Medicine,” “Monterey Poetry Review,” “Ephemeral Elegies,” “Mad Swirl,” “Adelaide Literary Magazine,” “Clementine Unbound,” ”Blood and Thunder,” “Rat’s Ass Review,” “Grand Little Things,” “Poetica Review,” “Red Wolf Journal,” “Frost Meadow Review,” “Grey Sparrow Journal,” “The Crossings,” “Praxis Magazine,” “Literary Yard,” “Anti-Heroin Chic ,” “Borrowed Solace,” “Meniscus Literary Journal,” “Dissident Voice,” “The Blue Nib,” “River City Poetry,” “CHILLFILTR,” “Spadina Literary Review,” “Red Planet,” “The Road Not Taken,” “The Wild Word,” “The Fictional Café,” “Cough Syrup Magazine,” “Down in the Dirt,” “Front Porch Review,” “Aberration Labyrinth,” “Cabildo Quarterly,” “Leaping Clear,” “In Parenthesis;” has poems pending in 20 other venues, had an honorable mention in Ninth Annual Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest; and has had letters to the editor in the New Yorker and Poetry Magazine. He’s been married to Anita for 41 years, and they’ve lived in Eugene, OR these past 11 years.